Nnu Ego is the daughter of a great Nigerian chief. She is expected to have many sons. With her first husband who beats her, she has no children. She leaves him and is married to a man who works on the coast in a British colony. Her life there is miserable. She and her husband slowly lose their village values and begin a daily battle for food and money.

Nnu Ego nevertheless becomes pregnant. Her infant son dies suddenly and she nearly goes mad. She recovers and produces many children, including two sons. Her eldest son goes to school in America, marries a white woman, and rarely contacts his mother. Certainly, he does not financially support her as village ethics demand. Her younger son follows in his brother's footsteps. Nnu Ego is considered a success in her village, but she dies alone. Her eldest son returns to Nigeria and pays for a big funeral in order to prove what a good son he is.


This novel explores family ethics. Nnu Ego exhausts herself to provide for her sons, but they do not cherish her before her death. What kind of financial and moral support do children owe to parents who are mentally or physically ill? Or even to parents who are healthy?

The novel also makes clear the immense importance placed on male offspring--an issue of great significance in these days of selective abortion. Nnu Ego's anguish over the death of her first son evokes empathy for parents facing crib death or still birth. The novel is also a troubling account of British imperialism and its effect on the people of Nigeria. Emecheta's work, interestingly, has received much attention by American and British literary critics but very little from African critics. Mostly, her work is read in non-academic circles.


George Braziller

Place Published

New York



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